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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Improved Accuracy and Quality of Information During Emergency Department Care Transitions


Introduction: Suboptimal communication during Emergency Department care transitions has been shown to contribute to medical errors, sometimes resulting in patient injury and litigation. The study objective was to determine whether a standardized checkout process would decrease the number of relevant missed clinical items (MCI).


Methods: In this prospective pre- and post-intervention study conducted in an urban academic ED, data on omitted or inaccurately conveyed medical information was collected before and after the initiation of a standardized checkout process. The intervention included group checkout in an optimal location, review of electronic medical records, case discussion and assigned roles. MCI were considered relevant if they resulted in a delay or alteration in disposition or treatment plan. The primary outcome was the change in the number of MCI. Secondary outcomes were duration of checkout and physician satisfaction with the intervention.


Results: Pre-intervention, there were 94 relevant MCI during 164 care transitions. Post-intervention, there were 36 MCI in 157 transitions. The mean MCI per transition decreased by 58% from 0.57 (95% CI 0.41, 0.73) to 0.23 (95% CI 0.11, 0.35). Instituting the intervention did not lengthen checkout duration, which was 15 minutes (95% CI 13.81, 16.19) pre-intervention and 14 minutes (95% CI 12.99, 15.01) post-intervention. The majority of participants (73.4%) felt that the process decreased MCI, and 89.5% reported that the new process had a positive or neutral effect on their satisfaction with care transitions.


Conclusion: The adoption of a standardized care transition process markedly decreased clinically relevant communication errors without lengthening checkout duration.

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